School of Education and Sociology

Postgraduate Wellbeing

Catalyst Fund: Supporting mental health and wellbeing for postgraduate research students

This Office for Students funded project aims to increase postgraduate research students’ knowledge of mental health issues and to provide additional support networks.

The recent University Mental Health Day highlighted the the mental health issues of people who study in higher education.  There has been increasing attention paid to a growing mental health crisis in undergraduate students, but recent research in Belgium found that more than half of 3,659 PhD students surveyed experienced symptoms of psychological distress and 32 per cent were found to be at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. The reasons include: social isolation and the lack of an established support network and reliance on a supervisor for pastoral and academic support.

This project provides the opportunity to make a real difference to the mental health and well being of PGR students. This funding will enable us to support individual students but also to tackle some aspects of institutional culture which are detrimental to students undertaking PhDs and other research degrees.

(Project leader Dr Jane Creaton, Associate Dean (Academic) and Reader in Higher Education at the University of Portsmouth)


The project aims to improve knowledge of mental health issues in postgraduate students and their supervisors, so that students are more likely to seek help that they need. The project will also use group mentoring to increase social interactions and online resources to enhance induction and training for  students and relevant staff. By embedding mental health resources, training and mentoring in PGR programmes, the project aims reduce stigmatisation and provide the opportunity for all PGR students to access and appropriate support for mental health and wellbeing.

The study starts on 1 April 2018 and runs through to January 2021.


Dr Creaton and co-investigators Dr Karen-Heard Laureote, Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, Dr Paul Gorczynski and Dr Rachel Moss will work on the project with over 1,000 students from the University of Portsmouth and Leeds Beckett University. Dr Darren van Laar and Dr Heather McKenzie from the Graduate School and Denise Meyer, Head of Wellbeing will also be involved in the project.


Read more about funding of this project.